Structure: 3 Areas Every Parent Should Evaluate in their Parenting

capacity knowledge perspective prioritizing skills tips Sep 26, 2022
Dad is parenting as he talks with son while sitting outside in front of their home

During a session as a parenting coach, Alex, one of my clients, shared with me her expectations when she returns to work after a 3-month leave with her newborn baby.

“I want to be able to pop in and out as my schedule allows and hold the baby, maybe feed her, and then go back to work without any problems.”

“That is a really nice goal. How likely is that to happen daily? What evidence/experience do you have to conclude that this is a realistic goal?” I asked.

“Well, I hadn’t really thought about that. I know that is what I wanted but I guess that is not very realistic. If I can’t do that with my 4-year-old now, I am not sure how I will be able to do that with a 4 month old.”

The conversation continued and we were able to gain clarity about what her goals were for the return-to-work transition and use her strengths to make small achievable steps that could be consistent and measured over time. These steps set her up for feeling successful as a working parent.

When it comes to structure and expectations, there are 3 areas that every parent should evaluate in their parenting.


Expectations are what we require of our kids both short-term and long term. These can be tricky to create. If they’re undefined, kids will believe the rules are unimportant and can negatively impact their self-esteem, motivation, and behavior. On the other hand, if parental expectations are too high, beyond what kids are capable of, children can become frustrated disappointed, and give up. There are three areas to keep in mind as you set goals and expectations for your kids.

  • Connection – the quality and integrity of the relationship is most important.
  • Respect – Mutual respect is imperative when establishing these ideas.
  • Positive Focus – Intentionally focusing on what is going well and encouraging growth.

What are your short-term and long-term goals for your kids?

How have they been involved in the process?


We use routines when we expect or want our kids to behave in a certain way. Routines consist of a series of activities that are performed time and time again. It is basically a sequence. This repeated sequence creates lifelong healthy habits that we can repeat daily. Think of the example of the gym. You may have a routine that you follow- warm up, cardio, weights, stretch. That would be your workout ROUTINE

  • What routines do you have currently in your family?

Without routines you have chaos, which then leads to anxiety, which then leads to resistance in not wanting to go to bed, which eventually leads to little to no cooperation.

So how do we create routines:

  • Start Small – What is one area that you feel the most stress and chaos in a day? Start there.
  • Keep it Simple – Choose just 3 things that your kids will need to do
  • Practice – It takes two to three weeks for the routine to become a learned behavior.


Self-Regulate Behavior (Rules)

Self-regulation refers to a person’s ability to understand and manage their behavior and reactions to the feelings they are experiencing. It includes being able to control impulses, calm down after experiencing something exciting or upsetting and being able to behave in socially appropriate ways. Self-regulation skills are especially important when reacting to strong emotions such as anger, embarrassment, or frustration. This is taught to our children through structure. We want to replace the fear-based obedience with the ability to regulate our emotions and behaviors. This simple activity helps parents incorporate rules that promote self-regulation.

  • Share what behaviors are wanted – Green Light
  • Behaviors that are tolerated during time of learning – Yellow Light
  • Unacceptable at ALL times – Red Light

What is an area that you would like to see a different behavior?

What boundaries are currently in place and how are they working?

What adjustments or changes can be made to develop further self-regulation?

Join us on Wednesday 9/28 at 12:30 PST when we discuss the parenting strengths that support building structure in our homes. We will share some great tips for setting expectations, creating routines, and developing self-regulation.

Don’t miss the Working Parent Institute Podcast! You will want to hear the one on Crazy Carpooling dated September 30, 2022.

Kelly McGinnis
President, Working Parent Institute

Just three times a year we offer a parenting webinar series. Don't miss your opportunity to join us.

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